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Surprise Revelations About Christianity In Northern Ireland

by | Fri, Mar 1 2024

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A recent poll in Northern Ireland has revealed that half the population describes themselves as practising Christians, while 80% still identify as Christian. By comparison, the 2021 census data for England and Wales showed 46% of the population identifying as Christian, significantly less that the 59% reported just ten years previously.

The latest data published by the Evangelical Alliance surprised even those who were aware of the strong presence of Christianity in the province. It found that one in five Northern Irelanders consider themselves to be an Evangelical Christian. Nearly 40% of practising Catholics were among those who claimed to be Evangelicals.

Queen’s University Belfast professor in the Sociology of Religion Gladys Ganiel said the willingness of so many to identify as an Evangelical was surprising. People aged 18-to-24 were far more likely to be an Evangelical than those over 65.

A separate survey of specifically evangelical Christians by the Alliance found:

  • 92% disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that ​abortion should be available for any reason. In contrast 34% of the general population disagree or strongly disagree.
  • 96% disagree or strongly disagree that churches should be compelled by the government to perform same sex marriages. In contrast 40% of the general population disagree or strongly disagree.
  • 89% agree that people should be free to express their beliefs in the workplace. This compares to 54% of the general population who agree or strongly agree.
  • 81% agree or strongly agree that asylum seekers, refugees and other newcomers should be supported in practical ways to feel welcome in our communities, compared to 56% of the general population who agree or strongly agree.

David Smyth, head of the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland, wrote: “It’s clear that classic evangelicals are a highly committed minority of people who differ from the general population on some contentious cultural issues. However, 65% of the population agree or strongly agree that there is a role for faith in society.”

“Some people associate us with American right-wing supporters of Donald Trump, or more locally, a kind of fundamentalist Christianity wedded with British loyalism. Many evangelicals, profoundly aware of this political conflation are at pains to define themselves in terms of their relationship to God, rather than the state. We evangelicals care about poverty, the protection of human life, marriage, refugees and reconciliation.”

Mr. Smyth told Premier Christian News that the heart around the report was to “help governments and media better understand the wider church and Christians, and to understand the role that we play in everyday life. The research definitely confirms that religious identity on practices are still really important, but remains changing.”